To Perish Twice
In a home in Santa Carolita, California, the Severances were putting the final touches on their time travel spell. "Are you sure about this?" Kit asked.
Kendy shook her head. "Naah. I thought I'd send us back in time an hour or so for the most important mission of our lives without knowing exactly what I was doing." She smiled mischievously. "Maybe we'll wind up in a wall or something! It might be fun!"
Kit snorted, while Kali just glared. Kendy said, "You had your sense of humor surgically removed, didn't you?"
Kali kept glowering, but this time she said, "We finally have the chance to live up to our legacy here."
"I know about our legacy. I'm the one that made us an active part of it, remember? After Mom and Dad died, YOU wanted to opt out of it. You didn't see a future in it. Well, when we pull this off we'll be the ones MAKING the future." She matched Kali glare for glare. "Remember?"
Before Kali could say something she might regret, Kit stepped between them and said, "Remember? How could we forget? You tell us like every two days." She smiled to take the sting out of the words. "Now, are we ready for this? Kali, you have the spell ready?"
Nodding, Kali said, "It's ready. What are our plans for Xander Harris? He could still ruin things."
Kendy laughed. "Gimme a break, sis. He's a normal human. Not even worth breaking a sweat about. Now, folks, remember: We gotta get this right the first time. Proserpaxa's not big on second chances; if we're lucky, he'll let us live."
And the Severances cast their spell and vanished.
* * * * *
Paige and Angel landed in the back alley behind the Magic Box. "How long do we have?" he asked as they hid behind some nearby trashcans.
"About thirty seconds," she answered. "Our time's limited enough as it is."
"True." After a second, "Any idea what we're going to do?"
Paige laughed bitterly. "I'd hoped we could change the flow of Giles' magic back to good from evil. But I don't think I can do that on my own."
"So subtlety's out."
"What's your opinion on killing them?"
Paige said, "Not going to try to, not going to try not to."
Holding up his hands, Angel said, "That sounds like how I'm thinking." Then, "If we can stop them here, we won't need to worry about later."
"Big if, but I get what you mean." A fireball shot through the roof of the shop; seconds later, Buffy came chasing after it down the street. Paige looked at her watch and suddenly had an idea. "Get ready. Three, two . . ."
And the Severances popped in, right on cue. Kendy's amused grin was really starting to piss Paige off. "Beautiful Sunnydale, California. Everybody remember where we parked."
Kali, irritably, said, "Not the time to be funny, Kendy." Sounds of a struggle could be heard inside the store.
If Paige remembered correctly, this was where Kendy answered with, "According to you, there's never a good time to be funny," but before the tallest Severance sister could say anything Paige orbed out.
She orbed back in right behind Kit Severance, grabbed her shoulder, and teleported.
She didn't know Sunnydale geography, so she just orbed back in a few miles away. They ended up in one of Sunnydale's many graveyards; Kit didn't waste time asking questions, but immediately tried to set Paige on fire.
Paige had been ready for this, though, and ducked, letting the cone of fire travel harmlessly over her head. Then she grabbed Kit's hands before she could fire again. "I think I can orb out before you can do your Human Torch imitation," Paige said. "Try it and the next place I'll orb you will be a mile straight up."
Kit blinked. "You're a Whitelighter. You can't come here."
"Right and wrong." Paige couldn't waste any more time; she let Kit's hands go, hit her as hard as she could (she got knocked down, but not unconscious) and orbed away as Kit's hands began to glow.
She reappeared right next to where she'd left Angel; he was still standing there. "Orb her into a volcano?" he asked.
"Just away from here. What have they been doing?"
"Looking around in confusion, then getting ready to cast a spell. I was ready to charge -"
"Do it," she said. "I'll handle things from this end."
Nervously, Kali and Kendy Severance said, "While the magic maintains its flow -- Angel pulled out his sword, and yelled as he ran forward. Kendy was closest to him; her chant faltered, even as Kali's continued, and a force field flashed in front of Angel, stopping him. A red glow - weaker than the one she'd remembered - emanated from Kali Severance and entered the shop.
Paige chanted quietly, "Good to evil and back again, let the magic be as it had been." A white glow followed it immediately inside.
"Did it work?" Kendy asked her sister.
"I don't know!" came Kali's response. "It might have - I'm not sure."
"Not sure. Great." Kendy threw up her hands and looked at Angel, who was still trying futilely to maneuver around Kendy's force field. "But I'm sure this guy had something to do with it." She studied Angel's poncho and the way he kept his hands firmly inside his cuffs. "Excuse me. Not guy. Vampire."
Kali concentrated a second. "Not just him. We've also got a Whitelighter here watching us."
Paige walked from behind the garbage cans. "Not just a Whitelighter," Kendy said. "A HALLIWELL." She advanced on Paige, angrily. "What did you do with Kit?" Angel maneuvered so he was ready in case Paige needed his sword.
"Put her somewhere well away from here," Paige said. "Did you think I'd killed her?"
"We would have," Kali said.
"You're not me."
"We ought to kill you," Kali said.
Angel said, "You don't have the time." Paige grabbed his arm, ready to orb away at a moment's notice.
Kendy swore. "He's right. We can still win this by stopping Xander Harris." She quickly called a box-like field into existence and she and Kali jumped in, muttering threats along the way.
Then she and her sister vanished around the corner, going faster than either of them could run. Paige looked at her watch. "Seven minutes so far," she said absently. "One down -"
They orbed out.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Kit Severance looked around the graveyard after the Whitelighter orbed out.
Briefly, she wondered why a Whitelighter was actively trying to stop them; didn't the damned touched-by-an-angel rejects simply hang back and give advice, and maybe heal every once in a while?
And didn't they DIE in Sunnydale? Because that woman, she hadn't looked anywhere near dead.
But she would.
The Whitelighter had probably thought she was dumping Kit off where she wouldn't be a problem. But she didn't know Sunnydale's geography as well as Kit did, apparently, or she wouldn't have left her a mile and a half from the newly raised temple to Proserpaxa.
No matter what the bitch Whitelighter had done to her sisters, Xander Harris was NOT going to get a chance to save the world.
Kit took off running.
* * * * *
As they flew towards their rendezvous with Xander Harris, a somewhat shaken Kendy Severance said, "You don't know?"
"For the third time, NO," Kali said. "There were supposed to be three of us casting us, and there was only one. And I'm not sure, but I think the Halliwell cast a spell at the same time. I only got a glimpse of it." She threw up her hands. "And what the hell is she doing here? And without her sisters?"
"Not your typical Whitelighter vacation spot, true," Kendy mused. "And the vampire, too . . ." she shook her head. "Someone else is interfering, here. This isn't the way it was supposed to go. No one else was supposed to know . . ." Then it hit her. "They're time travelers, too," she said. "They have to be."
Kali looked at her and said, "Are you sure?"
But Kendy shook her head. "I can't be sure. But it makes sense."
"So what do we do now?"
"That's the million-dollar question. I mean, if she came from the future then we can't have completely won . . ."
"But if we'd failed, they wouldn't have bothered coming back at all," Kali said. "So does that mean that we need to change what we did - are going to do?"
"I hate time travel," Kendy said. After thinking it over for a minute or so, she went on, "The problem is we can't NOT try to kill Xander Harris. I mean, that would foul up our whole future."
"So we just blindly march to our fate?"
Kendy laughed. "When have you known me to blindly march ANYWHERE, sis? No, no, the man still needs to die. We're just going to try to have to kill him somewhere else."
* * * * *
Paige orbed the two of them directly to the place where Xander was due to meet his untimely demise, right at the base of a wooded hill. This afforded Angel some protection, but not enough so that he could take off the poncho.
"Besides," he said. "I'd feel really stupid if I took it off and then I got shoved out into the sun in the middle of the fight."
Checking her watch, Paige said, "Right now, Phoebe and Piper are starting to bitch at each other about the MASH rerun we're watching."
"Right now, I'm under about a mile of the Pacific."
Paige snorted and said, "If I remember correctly, we were halfway through the show when Anya orbed in for the first time. That gives us . . . about seven minutes. Keep an eye out for them. Or Xander."
Angel nodded. "Already on it. But my day vision isn't so great."
Two minutes later, with both of them scanning the horizon, Paige said, "So what are you going to do after we get done?"
"Assuming I survive?" Angel asked. "I was planning to head back to L.A. and scare the hell out of my son." Paige gave him a blank look. "He's the one who put me in the coffin." Another blank look. "Just chalk it up to family issues. And you?"
Paige had thought this through. "I don't expect to live through it. Hell, I don't expect to live another ten minutes."
"Kind of pessimistic."
"Not pessimistic. Realistic. These are tough opponents. Even against two of them I'm expecting a long battle."
"Remember something," Angel said. "We don't need to fight to win. Whatever Xander's going to do, he needs to get up that hill to do it. We just need to hold them off long enough to -" He stopped. "What's that?"
"Shouting. Xander's shouting. From over there." He pointed towards a slight rise a bit away.
"You're sure?" She walked over to him.
"My day HEARING is fine."
She grabbed his arm and they orbed away.
When they reappeared, they came across a horribly familiar scene. Lacking Kit's ability to burn Xander to death, Kendy had his head trapped inside a small spherical force field.
He was suffocating.
Kali Severance said, "Kit. They're here."
Seconds after they'd orbed in, a force field appeared around them as well. "Don't go anywhere," Kendy said. "We'll be right with you."
Paige and Angel once again orbed away.
The shield orbed with them.
"I set it up to stay in contact with you," Kendy said, turning her head slightly. "You teleport, it teleports." She chuckled. "Just wanted to make sure you didn't violate that pesky prime directive."
Angel whispered in Paige's ear. She nodded, let go of Angel, and orbed.
Immediately after she vanished, Angel's sword lashed out until it was millimeters from Kali's throat. "Let him go," he said.
Kendy Severance didn't flinch. "Nuh-uh," she said. "Once he's dead it doesn't matter what you do to us. Proserpaxa wins." She grinned. "Besides, I never liked Kali that much anyway." A true believer to the end, Kali didn't so much as flinch.
"It's okay, anyway," Angel said. "I'm just the diversion."
-- and THEN Paige orbed in, right next to Kendy, so close that they were both inside the shield Kendy'd set up. This broke her contact with the one suffocating Xander, and he immediately began gasping for air.
As he stood up, he said, "Paige . . . Angel . . . what -"
"Answers later," Angel said. "Now, run. Stop Willow."
To his credit, though it was obvious he had all sorts of questions, Xander knew what was important, and he ran off towards Proserpaxa's temple.
Kendy quickly dropped her shield, but before she could go anywhere Paige grabbed her and said, "Try anything, move, create ONE force field and I swear to God I'll orb you into a wall."
"Good guys don't act like that. It's not MORAL," Kendy said, almost sneering.
"Well, my sense of ethics is a little shaky right now." A moment or so later, she turned to Angel. "I think we did this." By this point Xander was well out of sight.
"I think you're -" Abruptly he caught on fire, screamed, and turned into dust. The sword crashed to the ground, and when the fire cleared Paige could see Kit Severance standing there, her face furious.
"Good of you to join us, sis," Kendy said. "Wanna do something about this growth I've got around my neck?"
"Don't," Kali said as Kit raised her hands. "We'll never make it there in time if you kill Kendy." Xander had had a minute and a half to get ahead of them.
"You're not going to make it anyway," Paige said. "Go home."
"Not a chance in hell," Kit said angrily.
"A chance in hell might be all you have -" Suddenly Paige felt weak and dizzy. No. Not yet. It hadn't been long enough.
She stumbled, but held onto Kendy Severance as long as she could, before Kendy figured out something was wrong and simply stepped forward and let Paige fall to the ground. When she hit she could do nothing but lie there; she didn't even have the strength to orb.
"I KNEW Whitelighters died in Sunnydale," Kit said, raising her hands.
Kali stopped her once again, as Kendy set up their flying box yet again. "We don't have time. She's dying anyway. Let her die knowing she failed."
They flew off.
Paige raised her arm, looked at her watch. They'd given Xander two minutes and twenty-five seconds.
Please, she prayed. Please. Let that have been enough time. Please let Xander save the world.
"Hey, black-eyed girl."
* * * * *
Kit looked back for a second. "She's dead," she said as Kendy's force-box rose from the ground and began to move.
"That's nice," Kendy said as they sped up. "Do you think you could maybe give me a little hand here? We're not getting to that temple ANY faster from the wind coming from your lips."
Kit opened her mouth, closed it again, and shot out her strongest flame jet in quite a while.
The box jolted forward so hard it almost tipped over. "Remind me to stop challenging you," Kendy muttered.
* * * * *
"You're not the only one with powers, you know. You may be a hopped-up uberwitch, but this carpenter can drywall you into the next century."
* * * * *
"How long did he have?"
"About two and a half minutes," Kali said. "Plus as long as it takes us to get there."
"Which shouldn't be more than forty-five seconds," Kit said.
"I hope," Kendy said. "Proserpaxa's not going to be too forgiving if we blow this."
Kai said grumpily, "I wish we could do this spell ourselves."
"Well, we can't. Something to do with destiny. We try, we die."
They began to make their way through the trees.
* * * * *
"You've been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end . . . where else would I want to be?"
"Is this the master plan? You're gonna stop me by telling me you love me?"
"Well, I was gonna walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kind of cartoony."
* * * * *
"Quit with the fire for a second," Kendy said in the middle of the woods.
Kit stopped shooting out the fire, muttering, "Who put you in charge?"
"If you'd rather walk," Kendy said, and brought their transport to a quick stop. Then she went straight up as fast as she could.
"What are you doing?" Kali asked.
"We need an angle," Kendy said. "We don't want to keep dodging the trees on the way up. This isn't a video game."
* * * * *
"But the thing is, yeah, I love you. I love crayon-breaky Willow, and I love scary veiny Willow. So if I'm going out, it's here. If you want to kill the world, then start with me. I've earned that."
* * * * *
"There! I see them!"
On the top of the hill, Willow was repeatedly attacking Xander magically . . . but not killing him.
"What's she doing?" Kit asked. "Why isn't she killing him? Didn't you two do the spell?"
"I did," Kali said. "Kendy was too busy defending herself against that vampire."
They got closer, closer . . .
* * * * *
"I love you, Willow."
"I love you."
"I love you. I love you. I love you . . . "
* * * * *
"We're almost there!" Kendy said.
"They're hugging," Kali said, focusing her powers. "She's crying . . . her hair just turned red."
"We didn't need your powers to tell us that." Kendy stopped the box. They were less than a hundred feet away from the embrace, but they might as well have been five miles for all the good it did them.
Neither Willow, crying her eyes out, nor Xander, holding her and letting her do it, saw them floating there.
"Well, shit," Kit said. "We just lost. It can't get any worse."
Space tore beneath them, and fire shot out of the rift.
As the Severances fell into it, Kendy said sternly, "You know better than that."
* * * * *
Elsewhere in Sunnydale:
Buffy and Dawn climbed out of a pit.
Anya discovered that Giles wasn't dead, or even dying, and was happier at the prospect than she would have imagined possible.
Jonathan and Andrew fled.
Xander continued to hold his sobbing best friend. In the back of his mind, he made a note to tell Buffy about having seen Angel and Paige; but this wasn't the time for that.
Proserpaxa was in his hell.
All was right with the world.
* * * * *
About an hour ago, Leo had popped in on all three sisters, telling them to get home as fast as they could. Paige orbed away, Piper orbed with her husband, but Phoebe had to last out a meeting with her editor before she could finally get back to the manor.
"What's up?" she asked as soon as she walked in.
"No clue," Piper said. "Leo's been -" she turned and glared at him - "Annoyingly tight-lipped about the whole thing."
"Sorry about the secrecy," he said. "But I have my reasons." He closed his eyes. "Two days ago, a Whitelighter died."
All three sisters' expressions became sympathetic. "Were you close?" Paige asked.
"Very much so," Leo said. But he seemed more confused than upset.
"I'm detecting a lack of sympathy here," Piper said. "You're holding something back. Give."
Leo closed his eyes. "Okay. It started a couple of days ago when the Council of Elders started getting indications that a Whitelighter had died. But they weren't CLEAR indications."
"Why wouldn't they be clear?" Phoebe asked.
"Because they were coming from Sunnydale. That's what threw us off; we weren't expecting it." All three sisters' heads shot up at that. "You know if we go near Sunnydale we die. Because of this, we had to contact some of our human agents to go down there and retrieve the body."
"Dead Whitelighters don't leave a body," Piper said.
"Not normally, no. But this one was . . . different. It wasn't until the Council saw it that they realized how different it was."
Paige said, "Leo, why are you drawing this out so much? You can't be enjoying it."
"I'm not." He looked at them steadily. "I need you three to see the body."
Piper was about to say something flip, but something in her husband's voice dissuaded her. "Okay."
Leo orbed away, and five seconds later orbed back in -
The body he was carrying was Paige's.
Phoebe recovered first. "What the hell? Is this some kind of trick?"
"No. No trick. It really is . . . Paige. She was carrying these," and he pulled out a half dozen pages torn from the Book of Shadows. "They're mostly time travel spells. There are a couple of scribbled notes referring to a group of evil witches called the Only Ones - Kali, Kit and Kendy Severance. When The Council saw these, they figured out that she'd come from only about four hours in the future - sometime Saturday evening."
"What could have happened in that short a time that I - she - would have come back in time, to Sunnydale - when I knew I'd die?"
"Someone was trying to open up the temple of Proserpaxa," Leo said. "That would have brought about Armageddon." Then he shook his head. "But your - HER - body was found in an odd place. Close enough that it must have meant something, far enough away that she couldn't have affected things directly. The Elders have a mystery on their hands." He snorted. "They HATE mysteries."
"I'm not so fond of them right now myself," Piper said.
Right then the phone rang. Phoebe went over to pick it up. After listening for a minute or so, she said to Paige, "It's Xander. He wants to know why you and Angel saved his life last Saturday."
Paige walked over and took the handset, and slowly she and Xander began figuring out exactly what the hell had happened -
Why she'd died.